Before there was spoken language, mime was used to communicate what the primitive people needed or wanted. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer. Instead of fading into obscurity when the spoken language was developed, mime had became a form of entertainment. It then developed into a true theatrical form in ancient Greece, where performers enacted everyday scenes with the help of elaborate gestures. The principle mimes were known as ethologues, and the scenes they would perform would teach moral lessons. The performance of pantomime originates at its earliest in Ancient Greece; the name is taken from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus, although performances were not necessarily silent. In Medieval Europe, early forms of mime such as mummer plays and later dumbshows evolved.
Famous Mime Artists One famous mime artist was Joseph Grimaldi who was known by the stage name “Joey”. Joseph Grimaldi’s contributions to the development of clowning is so revered that in clown circles today, a fellow clown is often referred to as a “Joey”. Grimaldi painted his face white and added red triangles to his cheeks. This was the birth of the “Comic Whiteface Clown” of today. He wore a cut away shirt, white knee breeches and a blue crest wig on his head. Grimaldi didn’t only improve the face of the whiteface clown but he also transformed the whiteface clown into the dominant character who instigated the pranks rather than being the target. Grimaldi’s work was so recognized that through the course of time, Joseph Grimaldi has become known as the “Father of Clowning”.
Commedia Dell’Arte Commedia dell’arte is a form of improvisational theatre that originated in Italy during the 16 th century. It is Italian for ‘comedy of art’. The plays were often performed by a small group of actors who travelled in town squares. The actors would pass round a hat where the audience would put money in. The actors would normally wear masks and stories were often about people being cunning. Hunger, love and money were important in the stories. Commedia dell’arte had a lot of influence on theatre plays in many countries. Commedia dell’arte was popular and still is.
There were several characters who often appeared in lots of the stories. These are called "stock characters". Examples of stock characters from Commedia dell'Arte are: Harlequin, Pantalone, Arlecchino, Colombina, Pulcinella, Pierrot, Scaramuccia.
Technological Factors Technology has had a massive impact on mime because back in the days, mime artists performed during the day as there was no special lighting used. However now, there are different types of lighting that could be used for the performances. Also sound was a big issue in the olden times because actors had to project their voices but there were no microphones etc.
Social Factors In the olden days, actors performed mime and other performances for fun and to entertain people. Nowadays actors are paid to entertain the public.